Whilst it was obviously terrible for the Tories that they lost nearly 500 seats, now all the votes are in and the dust has settled, did Labour advance as the Tories retreated? They actually did relatively poorly.
Labour’s electoral performance outside their M25 enclave saw them gain just 22 councillors across England. That’s it. While the Tories’ results were obviously weak – although not at their worst expectations – any attempts to spin the numbers will have to contend with the fact that the LibDems, the Greens, and even independent candidates gained more net seats than Labour. Labour’s wins in London will be small beer when it comes to a general election.
Winning a net gain of just 22 councillors, and gaining control of the same number of councils as the LibDems, is not a strong showing. William Hague managed to do better in 2001, when the Tories won 120 seats and 5 councils – a consolation prize for getting pummelled in the general election the same day.
Even within the capital, however, there are warning signs for Labour. While they pop champagne over wins in Westminster, Barnet, and Wandsworth, their losses in Croydon and Harrow to the Tories, and Tower Hamlets to Lutfur Rahman should raise a few eyebrows. Losing Tower Hamlets to a man who was temporarily banned from office over corruption isn’t exactly promising…